By Shazeen Iqbal
How does that even work? It sounds a bit strange, right? How can I assimilate existence through breathing?
Just stop for a minute and pay attention to how you are breathing. Is it fast or slow? Are you struggling at all? Are you in a state of panic and not breathing calmly as a result of it? Are you in a hurry to attend daily chores and your work, and you don’t have a rhythmic breath because of it? Are you nervous about something and it’s causing you to not breathe properly? Can you see how many emotions, decisions and activities connect to your breath now?
I’m far from perfect in this too. In the four months that are bygone, I wasn’t relaxed inwardly and that’s to take account of the agony in my throat, below my ribs, and in my chest. I noticed being short breathed from which I was breathing fast. If I try breathing slowly I get exhausted and start panting.
The fuller extent of my realisation was in a Cuban bar that played loud music in the midst of a conversation with my dear friend who I met after a few months. We had a lot of catching up to do so we were talking about a lot of things together, as we sipped on our cocktails.
I was gutted for not having a proper chat with her. I may seem to be talking fine on the outside, but I was struggling inside.
My friend needed to go to the washroom and I snuggled in my sofa chair to try catching my breath. She wasn’t aware of what was happening to me because I didn’t want to ruin our evening. She’s one of my best friends but I couldn’t even open up to her about my struggle to breathe well. As you can tell, I wasn’t immersed in the present moment because my focus was on pleasing her and not ruining our evening through my problems. More importantly, it occurred to me that the cause of losing breath wasn’t coming from outside but inside of me. I initially felt that it’s happening because I’m not a social butterfly to be able to keep up with long interactions; or the loud music is too much to handle for me tonight; or the drinks are zoning me out. Those were not the reasons.
In fact, the music played a small part in an indirect way. The source was still within me. I’ve had to raise my voice louder in a vibrant and active conversation against the loud music. The louder it played, the higher I had to speak, and the more oxygen I required. Consequently my breath was running out and my inner states being quite unwell contributed to it too.
When my friend came back and smiled at me, I was already focusing on my breath at this point. I paid attention to how slowly I inhaled. I was doing better. Because of finding my connection with myself on a fundamental level again, I could tell my friend that I have to call it a night for going to work at 8am on the next day. We had a quick chuckle over a joke or two and parted ways.
Had I stayed in the Cuban bar longer I would get exhausted and lose a connection to my breathing again. And that’s my conundrum. I rushed home in an Uber and turned my jingling key into the keyhole, hoping that I won’t stumble upon any of my housemates. I ran upstairs and closed my bedroom door where I panted against it and thought of only water.
A couple of months later, I was in Adrian’s company talking about the autopilot responses that emerge from our subconscious mind and how I thought personally that my issues are related to it. My breathing style was quite similar to my manner of eating lately. Just the way I get eager to eat something when I’m starving and end up eating little, so am I breathing in a hurry as if to be in a state of loss, and I inhale less air than I should be.
When you’re eating food you are not just doing so physically and biologically; you’re actually engaging your consciousness too. You’re thinking about how the meal in front of you makes you feel; you’re wondering if it fits into your dietary requirements; you’ll want your taste buds to dance with approval when you eat the meal while you also want to take your taste buds on an adventure of trying out different kinds of meals; and this is without mentioning that the aesthetic appeal of your meal holds weight for some of you too. Eating food has long since come from a need to refuel ourselves to the awareness of it being a source of pleasure and art.
In the same way, breathing isn’t limited to being physical and biological. I’m not even suggesting it’s conscious, because it’s an unconscious process which gives you consciousness. But you can make it a conscious experience through observing your breath and the life in each breath you take. The beauty of observing your breath is the higher level of appreciation and love that you grow for your own life, which can be an incredibly healing journey, especially if like me, you are suffering with a condition that impacts how you breathe.
Of course, this doesn’t happen easily and takes a set of ancient and modern breathing practices and techniques to achieve. And I’ve taken the road to making this a bit easier to do, by learning through Adrian’s teaching. He’s established a few techniques of breathing that he walked me through, as he showed me how to observe my breaths and eventually overcome the panting.
He guided me on using the diaphragm to breathe from the belly, as in doing so, it’s impossible to feel anxious, angry or upset. My anxiety gets worse from suffering from mild lupus and during feeling anxious I breathe with my chest. The key is breathing through your nose and using your belly. You’d need to engage deliberate breathing constantly for the count of 10. The amazing results that I’ve felt were increased focus, consciously using my muscles where before I wasn’t in the knowledge of the benefits of it, and it brings awareness to my body. My mind chatter quietened too. I was breathing in the present moment.
This technique helps with anxiety, performance, and attending meetings because consciously breathing empowers you to make decisions from thought to action. This is namely good for business people who find themselves in situations that need decisions to be made and circumstances that they are responsible over people and emotions too. Conscious and belly breathing reduces the stress hormone known as ‘cortisol’, which can contribute to making bad decisions.
Since then I have simultaneously paid attention to how I breathe and apply it as much as I can. I’ve also made better decisions especially in regards to my business as a content and copywriter as to which potential clients to take on board, because I felt I have done so out of clarity and objective thought rather than in haste. I don’t expect instant results as if my breath will improve quickly. Again, I will stress that it takes ‘practice’ to achieve and it makes my journey easier to have a teacher or expert to guide me through the techniques and awareness of my breathing style.
It also goes without saying that one’s breathing can impact your neural state, and therefore your emotional and mental state. The reverse is also true, as your emotional and mental state can affect your breathing.
And remember folks, be patient in practicing your techniques; because it works after a period of time. Don’t be afraid to feel life and don’t be afraid to let somebody guide you through the process if you feel that you can’t do it alone.
Once you have regulated your breathing through practice, your new habits become second nature and they influence your reactions to situations and places.
This is one of Adrian’s many mindfulness practices that he can help people with in their daily lives.